Food security: the EU and Africa want to join forces
On the occasion of the EU-Africa business summit which took place on Thursday (June 23) in Brussels, political and economic players in the European and African agri-food sector met to find solutions to the food crisis that cross two continents.
The COVID-19 crisis, and even more so the war in Ukraine, have deprived many African countries of raw materials, in particular Russian-Ukrainian fertilizers and wheat.
At the head of the African Union, Micky Sall had tried in early June to unblock the situation by going to Moscow to convince Vladimir Putin to lift the blockade, while urging the 27 to do everything ” to release available stocks “.
” There is a long-standing cooperation between the African Union and the EU and we look forward to more concrete actions. said Godfrey Bahiigwa, Director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development at the African Union during a round table on food security.
” African agriculture can count on our support” for his part, assured the European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski in the preamble to the exchanges.
The speakers insisted on the need to immediately help Africa to reduce its dependence on Ukraine and Russia, by finding alternative markets for raw materials.
On June 17, the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed on the need to open the food market to help countries in need to obtain supplies. It is above all a question of avoiding the retention of raw materials as India or Indonesia do.
Also, faced with soaring wheat and fertilizer prices, various financial aids have been released.
The European Commission recently (June 21) adopted a proposal to mobilize €600 million from the reserves of the European Development Fund for countries in Africa, among others. For its part, the World Bank said on Wednesday (June 22) that it had approved a $2.3 billion program. These funds are primarily aimed at encouraging sustainable production and the resilience of food systems.
This resilience of the African and European systems must pass, according to the speakers at the summit, through partnerships between the two continents, exchanges of know-how and technology transfers.
An emblematic example is that of the EU’s partnership agreements in the field of sustainable fishing, which aim to promote the economic growth of the sector in Africa, while opening up sustainable fishing areas to hundreds of European vessels. This is what allowed Mauritania last year to receive 60 million euros per year in EU aid for six years against access to more than 290,000 tonnes of fish annually.
According to Iliass Elfali, director of operations of the Moroccan phosphate giant OCP, private actors must be at the forefront of these partnerships. Especially in the face of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. The shortage of fertilizers could indeed cause a 20 to 50% collapse in cereal yields in Africa this year. Iliass Elfali has also undertaken elsewhere to dedicate 20% of its production to the African market.
Economic and political rapprochements can not only help Africa to meet the urgent needs in raw materials, but also to diversify its imports, to develop new local sectors. This is the case of Gabon, or the DRC, which are relaunching large-scale cassava production to produce bread and do without imported wheat.
For Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, “ Africa is well placed to promote the added value of local products. The agrifood sector is essential for recovery, eradicating poverty and mitigating climate impact”.
Europe also expects a lot from African innovations and technologies.
” We have things to learn, practices from which we can draw inspiration, in anticipation of climate change. Some countries grow cereals in drought and hot weather conditions that we will probably experience in the future MEP Jérémy Decerle told EURACTIV after the roundtable.
Food security and agroecological transition: these are the two challenges that the continents will have to respond to in the long term, but also quickly, as drought hits the Horn of Africa like never before, raising fears of a devastating famine.
According to the World Bank, it is estimated that 66.4 million people could experience stress or a food crisis or even famine in the coming weeks in Africa.
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